Think about your home — entrance, rooms, walls. The spot you relax in. The spot you entertain guests. Everything is as clear as you can.
Now think of your website. The homepage. The service or product pages. The contact page. The careers page.
Does thinking about your home and your website one after the other bother you? Or does it really make you feel “at home”? Or are you confused about what to think?
Chances are you have never got your website audited. Or you’d have a lot of clarity about what to make of your website — its purpose and its structure.
And you are not alone. Our own esteemed founder had to be told by a junior colleague in the office how many pages our own website has!
Most business people think that their website is something that their IT guys do. Because they think they are cut out for larger things like marketing strategy or fundraising or product innovation.
The truth is that your website is connected to all the larger marketing or fundraising activities you do. It’s connected to a lot more. Your website tells the world what you’ve been up to. It’s your address. That’s where people come to find you.
You’ve got to pay attention to what message you’re putting across and through what kind of presentation.
And it may not always be clear to you — the understatement and the overstatement you’re making through your website. Auditors can tell you how well you meet your website communication habits, and sometimes they also tell you if you’ve set the right and realistic objectives to meet in the first place.
A website as a house is one analogy. But there’s a serious difference as well. Your visitors can come to your house through the main entrance. Most houses have only one entrance.
However, visitors can come to your website through the window, through the kitchen, through the study, through the balcony, and so on. Because there are multiple entry points into your website, it’s crucial for you to provide a clear navigation and site map to your visitors coming from different sources to help them make sense of what you do and why they should consider doing any transaction with you.
This navigation or site map is not the technical aspect dealing with the functionality of your website. We mean navigation in a broader sense — the users should know where they are and should be intelligently nudged to where they’ll find more value.
Your website is a crucial asset that you must take special care of. All your content on various social networks exists to bring people to your website.
An audit is a meaningful way to understand how your efforts are paying off.
What a Website Audit Covers
A website audit tells you how your website is performing in domains such as:
- Analytics (bounce rate, dwell time & a lot more)
- User journey
- Buyer’s Journey
- Content strategy (website copy & asset building)
- Design thinking
- Link management (inbound and outbound)
- Competition benchmark
- Mobile responsiveness
- Coding & Server issues (SSL etc)
It’s important to do a regular audit because a lot of factors in the digital ecosystem like the search engine algorithm keep changing. Your competition is changing too.
Our experience with such audits tells us that most websites are outsourced to content agencies for writing content and designing and then sometimes handed over to a different agency for development.
Because it goes through so many hands, isn’t there at least a tiny chance that your message gets transformed like Chinese whispers?
How a Website Audit Can Change the State of Affairs in an Organization
You get to know if the agencies that you’d outsourced your work to (or your own in-house team) have done a thorough job.
We’ve seen marketing heads surprised get surprised when they get exposed to the right ways of doing things:
We came across one marketing head who had trusted his SEO expert a lot but it turned out that he did not know what to do with broken links on the website. If broken links look like they’re about the rocket science of web development, they’re not. These links are not just broken. Your users see a 404 error when they click on one of your links. But instead of exploring your website further, they meet a dead end.
Recall the home analogy. It’s like inviting a guest to your study room and slamming the door on his or her face when they’re about to enter!
In another case, the content agency was asked to explain the difference between articles and blogs. Because the agency has been producing both without any apparent distinction between the two.
There was no particular difference in the style of writing between the two formats. Both formats did not have any specific objectives. The user was left confused regarding which option to start reading more or which format answered their questions better.
Predictably, the content agency failed to answer. That made it difficult for the agency to get its contract renewed. Who wants to hire an incompetent vendor?
In the third case, there was no consistency in the images used on the website. The header image on the home page was so heavy to load that it took more than 3 seconds to load. Yes, that’s the maximum your user can wait before clicking on other websites in search of a solution.
When the website eventually opened, we saw that the first fold had many heavy images in the form of sliders. And what's worse than having 1 heavy image? We explained that it’s difficult for the user to make sense of your business is if the images don’t stay still.
The designers in the team weren’t able to explain why they were increasing the cognitive load on the user instead of clearly establishing the business. The contract with the agency was revisited.
In each of these cases, the audit exposed flaws in the workflow and review process of the birthing and the upbringing of the website. It’s your website but it may turn out that you don’t have much control over who’s been doing what with it.
Recall the home analogy over here. Do you let the interior decorator and the plumber resolve your issue between themselves?
With the website, you may not know the technical details yourself. Therefore, it’s even more important to figure out the right way to get things done.
You may do an audit yourself first in whichever basic format you have the resources for. Because even a self-audit can alert you to things going right and wrong.
To bring up the home analogy once again, think of auditing as the time you start tidying up your home when you’re expecting guests. That’s the time you suddenly begin to notice leaking taps or walls, dusty furniture, or noisy fans.
A website audit changes the way your organization has been thinking about what should go on your website and the partners and teams you can trust to do the job well.
From appointing vendors to assigning in-house mentors and collaborators, an audit makes the core team rethink their investment in the website.
When You Should Ask for a Website Audit
Some digital marketing heads insist on a monthly in-house audit to keep track of their goals or to see how their new activities have been doing.
However, organizations that function without digital marketing heads and whose websites are run by the CMOS or the equivalent request for audits when they are unhappy about any of the following situations:
- The e-commerce pages are not getting any traction
- There’s no goal conversion happening at smaller levels like pdf downloads
- The website is not showing up on SERPs
- Even the huge investment in paid advertising on search engines is not showing any results
- The leads are not converting
- Attention-grabbing tactics like discounts and offers are not working
- Basic analytics show that the bounce rate is very high or session duration is very little
- Your awareness and lead-generation campaigns on social media are not showing any results
Waiting for any of these signs to appear and then trying to audit is a very big mistake. Because whatever changes you make today will take a minimum of 6 months to begin to show any results.
Why Website Audit Matters
Think of the website audit as you think of annual employee appraisals in your organization. You do review or evaluate the KPIs of your sales team. You provide them with training when you see they need help.
Your website is your salesperson. Why would you leave it unappraised?
You evaluate your distribution channels and seek to optimize them from time to time. Your website works as your primary source of distribution for all things — your content, the catalog of your products, further information about your products and services, point of purchase, and so on.
Would you not inspect your distribution channel?
Website audit helps you:
- design better conversion goals
- adapt to your sales funnel
- help users find the solutions to their problems on your website
- reflect the personality of your target audience
- make a better impression on prospects and convert them to smaller goals
- map the results of analytics to new goals
You started out by thinking about your website as your home. You’re now thinking about it as your sales agent and distribution channel. And on the way, you gave a second thought to how different cooks have been contributing to the broth that your website probably is.
Our founder now keeps a track of how many pages our website has. He knows the navigation bar like the back of his hand. And he knows how each page on the website relates to another and what it's purpose is in the entire scheme of the user journey and our content strategy. By the time he finishes his first meeting with a prospect who approaches him for a consultation, he knows what’s been this individual’s unique journey to reach The Digital Fellow. And that helps him think about what can be tweaked further and what’s working well.
The deeper you get into your website, the better you manage its contents and experience to expand your sales funnel. An audit gradually becomes a mindset.